New York artist Leigh Ledare’s mixed-media assemblages tread a fine line between progressive and taboo, mining an uncomfortable liminal space that exists where public and private, provocative and sordid overlap. Perhaps best known for “Pretend You’re Actually Alive,” a suite of photographs that picture his mother masturbating, engaging in sexual acts with young men, and modeling nude, Ledare boldly investigates the ways behavior is shaped by social mores, gender dynamics, and cultural context.
For his first exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Ledare presents two bodies of work that serve as archives of his multi-dimensional practice. Double Bind, originally produced in 2010, explores the icon of the female muse—in this case, the artist’s ex-wife Meghan Ledare-Fedderly—by framing her as the object of two distinct male gazes: that of the artist himself, and that of Meghan’s second husband, Adam Fedderly. The two resulting sets of photographs both expose an element of each man’s private relationship to this “muse,” and are pitched to accommodate and address the implied gaze of the other man. Meghan, therefore, serves at once as subject and conduit. Displayed among ephemera culled from the pages of various pornographic, cultural, and fashion publications, the work as a whole insinuates a fraught network of complex dynamics bubbling just below the surface.
An Invitation (2012), exhibited in the United States for the first time, explores similar manifestations of exposure and obfuscation. Inspired by a solicitation Ledare received from an unnamed European woman with ties to high-profile cultural figures—to create a series of photographs in which she would present herself provocatively to the camera—the series also includes a private edition that belongs to the client and is not shown publicly. Anchored by the presence of the legal contract ultimately drawn between the woman, her husband, and the artist, and the presentation of the works overlaid onto copies of the front page of the New York Times, the work plumbs the political nature of identity construction in an era when the supposed division between private and public is increasingly tenuous.
Leigh Ledare is on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Chelsea, through Apr. 26th, 2014.